Saturday, January 14, 2017

White Chicken Chili

Years ago now, in college, a bunch of friends got together one night and enjoyed some delicious white chicken chili. Up until that point, all I'd ever known for chili was my dad's. His version involves kidney beans, beef, and tomato. This was nothing like that. We all asked for the recipe. I cannot tell you how many times I've gone back to that email to reference it since that fall. Now, sick of searching my inbox, I share that recipe with you. (Ladies, if you're reading this, it might look just a little different. I've tweaked the seasonings just a hair and added in the changes we made that night. Extra beans, added corn, etc.)

2 T oil
1 pound diced, cooked chicken
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
29 ounces chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1/4 t ground cumin
2 cans white beans
1 can corn or 1 cup frozen
salt and pepper to taste
lime, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, and cilantro for serving

1. Heat oil. Cook onion and garlic until soft.
2. Stir in broth, tomatoes, chiles, and cumin. Bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes.
3. Add chicken, corn, and beans. Simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Serve.

I'm planning on trying this in my new instant pot this week so I'll update with pictures and how to use that device successfully soon.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Socialization and Anxiety

To those who know me well, I don't think it will come as much surprise that I'm an introvert. I can quite happily curl up on the couch with Netflix or a book and be content for hours. When I worked as a barista, my job alone was enough to fulfill most of my social needs. (The fact that my coworkers at the time were awesome didn't hurt though.) Now that I'm a nanny, I have to find social interaction. Even introverts need some. Most weeks for me that means lunch at my in-laws on Sundays, Monday night dinners (affectionately known as Dragonland), story time at the library on Wednesdays where I talk the librarians' ears off, and the absolute highlight of my week is my mommy group Thursday mornings.

But lately, our Monday night host has been travelling out of town, I've had to drive my husband to work which interferes with story time, and the location for mommy group closed down. So I haven't been getting my social life fix. Finally, yesterday, with the return of our second vehicle to working order and a rescheduled mommy group hosted at someone's house, I was able to get some socialization. And I needed it. To be able to hang out with my friends, let the kids play, and, as a bonus, my daughter and I were able to eat everything but the cheese cubes without worry. (She has food allergies which impact my diet too.)

While I love my time with my friends, and I desperately need the adult interaction, the minute I leave, my anxiety roars its ugly head and makes me question, makes me doubt. I walk out the door and I begin to analyze every thing I did or said. Did they know I meant this? Did I come across like that? Did I talk too much? Am I too self-centered? Am I too needy? Did I ask enough questions about the other person? If I had my phone out, did I spend too much time on it?

My first anxiety attack, that I can recall, I was 8 years old. That means I've been dealing with this monster for 18 years. If my mental illness was a person, he could vote and sign a contract and get a tattoo. I have what's considered high functioning anxiety. It doesn't stop me from doing many things (except for the semester in college where it sabotaged my efforts to meet my chapel requirement). But every interaction I have gets replayed in my head over and over several times. It gets questioned and disected and analyzed until even I am sick of it.

If it was as simple as not thinking that, trust me, I'd stop in an instant. But that's just not the reality. My brain goes into overdrive and I cannot turn it off. I can't stop these thoughts like I can stop the faucet on my kitchen sink. And at the end of the day, they can get overwhelming. They can get to the point where I just want to scream or rip my hair out or revert back to how I coped in high school and hurt myself. Because if I'm in pain, I'm not focusing on the interactions I had all day. I'm focusing on causing the pain, dealing with the pain, and then after I'd be focused on the guilt of making that choice. (The guilt would then consume my brain, I wouldn't be able to turn those thoughts off, and it would end up an awful cycle. This is why I haven't done that in about ten years.)

I wish I could just change on a dime. I wish it was that simple. But I've done this my entire life. Until recently, I thought everyone did. I didn't know this was a symptom of my anxiety. I thought it was just exaggerated for me. Which makes me wonder how much of my standard behaviors, thoughts, things I say are part of my mental illnesses. They impact every aspect of my life. Even when they're under control. I'll never be able to get twenty years of my life back from this monster. I'll never be able to go back to Germany and attend those drink nights that I skipped because I wasn't sure exactly where it was or those times I bowed out from events in college because I didn't know who would be there. I'll never have that back. Maybe someday I'll have an afternoon with friends where I don't leave and second guess every single thing I said and every single thing I did. In the mean time, I won't let it stop me from going to my mommy group, from messaging my friends about German or haircuts or babywearing. I won't let this illness hold me back the times I'm able to overcome it. And when I'm not able to overcome it, I will seek help. Because as my husband said, that's an awful way to live.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Voting in the Kingdom

Today is Election Day in America and I have never been more scared for the results.

I have my opinions on who is or is not qualified for the position of president but that is not what this post is about. This post is about how I'm coming to peace with the possible results of the election. While you may gather what my vote is from this or from other conversations with me, please do not make this about that. Any comments campaigning for or against any candidate will be deleted.

No matter what my vote, or yours, that's not the important part. Don't get me wrong, I believe voting is important and I believe we should be informed voters. I've come to peace with my decision. I've picked the candidate that most closely aligns with what is most important to me and I will be casting my ballot after my daughter wakes up from her nap. But I was still struggling this morning when I woke up with worry over the results. Would the rest of America make the choice that I believed was best? Or would they do something I thought would be detrimental to our country and to the world in general? Like it or not, America has a huge role to play in the way the world functions. But you know what?

It's not up to me.

This election is in bigger hands. If G-d controls my life, why wouldn't He have a say in who runs this country? No matter who ends up President, be it Trump, Clinton, or Johnson, my King is in control. My prayer these days is "Thy will be done, above all else. But selfishly I pray You'd keep my family safe, my daughter safe, and give me peace." No matter if tomorrow we know our next president will be the first female president or whether we will have another Mr. President, if you were my friend yesterday, you'll be my friend tomorrow. If you were family yesterday, you'll be family tomorrow.

So go, educate yourself, and vote. But please, pray about it too. Let Him guide your ballot.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Loving Me Instead of Liking Me

There's a difference between being okay with who you are and loving yourself.

A friend challenged the ladies in her group to name something they love about themselves and then comment on something they love about the others who had commented. I was one of the first to see the post but at least half a dozen women commented before me. Not because they were so quick to respond but because I had to think.

And think.

And think.

It took me about two hours to come up with something I loved about myself. Two hours. I thought about the fact that I didn't go through a crisis of self-confidence after giving birth. I didn't struggle with my self-image. I accepted my squishy belly and my tiger stripes almost immediately. But I'm realizing it wasn't a struggle because I didn't love my body before I got pregnant either. I was okay with it. I accepted it as a matter of course. It was like an old car. It got me where I needed to, didn't cause too many problems, but I didn't put too much effort into it either. It just was. I didn't like it but I didn't dislike it either. But that wasn't something to love about me.

I thought about the breakdown I had the other night about how I felt about my attitude, my personality. I thought about all the mean things my anxiety and my depression tell me are true. That I'm mean and selfish. That other people don't really like me, they just put up with me. That I'm no fun and I'm awkward. That I talk too much. I thought about all the things I don't like about me. Clearly, those weren't answers either.

I tried to think of one thing about me that I loved. I love being a mom but that's not really about me. It's about a blessing I was given. It's about my daughter. It's a fact of my being. But I thought about the things I love about being a mom. Wearing my daughter in our wrap, holding her close, nursing her, spending time engaging with her, snuggling her, sleeping with her in my arms. So many of those things required me to do research, to know what I was doing before I tried. I needed to know how to wrap before I could try it with her. I had to know it even existed as an option!

I had to know so much more about breastfeeding than I thought possible. Knowing what hunger cues were and the reasons why babies need to eat on demand and not on a schedule. Why she might actually be hungry even though she just popped off an hour ago. That breastmilk is so easily digested. What things meant I might have a low supply and what things didn't. Why topping her off with formula would have done more harm than good in most cases. Things I see women question daily because we've lost that cultural knowledge. Once upon a time, our mothers passed us that information. But in families like mine, the last nursing mother is three generations back and she passed away before I got to this stage. It's not something we grow up with anymore. It's not something we're familiar with or that we're used to. We have to learn it. I've been successful because I read voraciously while I was pregnant.

There are many other things I had to learn to be confident in the choices I've made as a mom. And I don't think I'm by any means done learning. But rather than being a daunting prospect, I look forward to the journey. I love to learn and to research and I love my thirst for knowledge. That, ultimately, was what I shared with the other women in the group. But it took me two hours to come to that conclusion.

Until today, I thought I was doing pretty good in terms of self confidence, self esteem. Because I didn't have a litany of self-hatred pour out when I looked in the mirror and because I like my body, I'm proud of the stretch marks that cover my stomach, that show I grew an entire human being, I thought I was doing well. But liking yourself is not loving yourself and I realize that now. I realize I'm not where I need to be. So today I'm starting a journey to love myself. To forgive my imperfections and to move from liking me to loving me. To treat me the way I want my daughter to treat herself. I'm not sure how I'm going to get there but I know I have to try. Care to join me?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The End of My Rope

I am at the end of me. For 7 months or more, I've tried to run on my own energy, my own steam, my own will. I've tried to do it all without interference, without help, without Him. I've paused in the amazement of my blessings, the wonder of watching my daughter grow and learn and I've whispered a quick thank you but I haven't stopped to listen to Him. I haven't stopped to really soak in Him, bask in His presence, connect with the One who made everything around me. And for the most part, I haven't been writing. Not here, not in my journals, not anywhere but texts. I've overcommitted and I've taken on too much mentally while simultaneously managing to not do much at all. My list of things to accomplish is a mile long and never ending.
When the house is a disaster, it's my fault. But simultaneously, it's not at all because my husband said he'd do the dishes a week ago and still hasn't. But in that week, neither have I. So while I sit here, not doing anything about the mess that surrounds me, blaming someone else, I also beat myself up about the fact that I can't even keep my house clean. Yes, the workings of my mind are a dark and twisty place sometimes. I spend too much time on my phone playing games and involved in facebook crap and not enough time connecting with my Creator and I wonder why I struggle. With winter coming, this is an even more serious issue for me.
In case you didn't already know, I struggle with depression, especially seasonal depression. I was incredibly lucky to escape postpartum depression immediately after my daughter's birth. I was at high risk and technically I'm not out of the woods yet. PPD and PPA can strike at any time in the first year postpartum. Mental illness is a very real thing and it's something I've struggled with for 18 years. Yes, you read that right. I'm still in my twenties and I've been in this battle most of my life. I hadn't even hit puberty yet when I began fighting. I've never known what it was like to not worry about what others thought of me or to not take the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Last night, I hit my breaking point. We'd had a good day. My husband had the day off and we took the kids I watch to a corn maze and to get pumpkins. Except for some potty training issues and a missing cup, the day went off without a hitch. But on the way home, talking about the little girl I watch, my husband mentioned how much like me she can be. How we're both stubborn. And in his words, "she's preparing [me] for someone who's going to be [my] little clone". Those words just hit me like a brick. I love my daughter beyond measure but in that moment I felt awful. I don't want her to be like me. I'm selfish and I'm stubborn. I can be mean and I struggle with anger and frustration. I'm impatient and at times I don't just walk away from G-d but I run. He is not the center of my life as He should be. I want her to be better than me. And last night, I couldn't see any of the good things in me. I couldn't see any of the reasons why I should be proud that she might take after me.
What an awful point to come to. After such a good day, a day where the kids made good choices and we had so much fun, where we began a fall tradition and picked out a first pumpkin for a little one, to end up in tears practically begging my husband to tell me what he loved about me because I couldn't see it... Well I haven't been that low in a long time. Is it postpartum, sleep deprivation? Or the changing of the seasons? Or is it all because I broke the rope that had previously felt like it was keeping me from running too far from G-d and drifted off to sea? I don't know. But I know I need to fix this. No, I need to open myself and allow Him to fix me. I need to change and I cannot do that on my own. I've tried for too long.
So I'm not going to say that I'll be blogging regularly or on any sort of a schedule. I'm not going to make any more demands on myself or promise anything to anyone else. My word for the year was temple. I am a temple of the Holy Spirit and I need to take care of that temple. That means putting me on the list. And maybe crossing a few things off. My mental health is important. My spiritual growth is important. So I'm not going to oblige myself any more than I already am. But I am going to take care of me. Part of that will be writing more. But I don't know where I'll be doing that. If it's here, I hope you'll read and chime in. If it's in my journals, I know that my Audience will be attentive to every jot and tittle. And if it's working on my book, well, someday you'll have the chance to read it. But while that's still on my agenda, I refuse to make it a chore. It's so much more than that and it's far too important to ever let myself dread. Every word of it needs to be written with purpose and with love. So if it takes me another decade or two to write, so be it. It will be done when He wants it done. And after He helps me determine what I'm supposed to write about!
I hope when you read this you understand. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm not looking for pity. I'm not looking for you to tell me what to do to fix this. These are my mental blocks and I'm slowly developing a plan to knock them out of my way, to jump over them. I hope if you have similar mental blocks, or even just stubborn ones of your own, maybe this will inspire you to create your own plan. Maybe it will just make you aware that you are not alone. And maybe some day we'll both look back on this and know that we reached the end of us and found something so much greater.